Session Musicians Working Overtime

Looking back on the time some session stalwarts got together to cover some of their favorite songs on Sony's dime

Session Musicians Working Overtime
Fractals, baby

What do you get when you gather some of the most prolific and well-respected session musicians of the '80s, add a successful yet still strangely anonymous lead singer/keyboard player, and put some of Sony's money in their bank accounts? Well, if it's the early '90s, you get Spin 1ne 2wo.

Chances are, unless you had the good/bad fortune of being trapped in the rental car I drove around Cleveland prior to Mayor Wardlaw and Annie Zaleski's wedding, you've neither heard nor heard of this band, but if the description in the above paragraph interested you at all, then you definitely want to know more, and I'm here to give you the information you crave. I will begin with the Spin 1ne 2wo lineup, which was as follows:

  • Paul Carrack, lead vocals/keyboards
  • Phil Palmer, guitars
  • Tony Levin, bass
  • Rupert Hine, keyboards/production
  • Steve Ferrone, drums

If you're any kind of liner notes connoisseur, you don't need me to tell you that these guys have roughly 10,000 years of combined session experience:

In addition to enjoying some success as a solo artist, Carrack was the frontman for Ace ("How Long"), played with Roxy Music, joined Squeeze for a couple of brief stints (and sang "Tempted," their biggest hit), and was one of the lead singers in Mike & the Mechanics (that's his voice on "The Living Years").

One of the most sought-after session guitarists not named Huff, Landau, or Lukather, Palmer has been hired by a long, long list of acts that includes Pet Shop Boys, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Bryan Adams, and George Michael.

A bass player's bass player, Levin earned his bones as a member of King Crimson and steady sideman for Peter Gabriel, along with session gigs for pretty much everyone — Stevie Nicks, Robbie Robertson, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Tom Waits, Todd Rundgren, James Taylor, and Peter Frampton are just a few of the names on his lengthy list of credits.

A quintessentially '80s session player and producer, Hine was behind the boards for albums by Rush, Howard Jones, Suzanne Vega, Tina Turner, and Thompson Twins.

Firmly ensconced forever among the upper echelon of session drummers, Ferrone played with Spin 1ne 2wo just before joining Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; prior to that, he was a member of the Average White Band, a member of the Saturday Night Live house band, and a hired gun for everyone from Chaka Khan to Duran Duran.

I have likely belabored the point here, but it remains: Spin 1ne 2wo had a supremely impressive pedigree. That said, none of its members were exactly set for life, so when some record exec dangled some money in front of them, they weren't about to reject the idea out of hand. Carrack in particular was at loose ends — his solo career had stalled, Mike & the Mechanics were in the midst of a four-year hiatus, and he was on the verge of his second blink-and-you'll-miss-it tour of duty in Squeeze. Why not cash Sony's checks and cut some classic rock covers?

The knock against outfits like this one is that while they're incapable of delivering anything that isn't at least wholly competent, they typically tend to land somewhere outside the beating heart of the stuff they're covering. It's wedding band stuff, essentially — slick, but not essential. And I'd be hard pressed to argue against that point where Spin 1ne 2wo is concerned, honestly; I sought this CD out in '93 because I'm a longtime Carrack fan and he hadn't released an album of new material since the comically titled Groove Approved in 1989, but beyond the novelty of hearing him handle the lead vocals on covers of "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Kashmir," among others, I found little to justify the astronomical cost of the import.

Still, with the hindsight of 30+ years stuffed in my ears, I still think Spin 1ne 2wo is... kind of fun sometimes? Again, if you were in that rental car I drove around Cleveland for the couple of days surrounding Mayor Matt's wedding, you most likely never need or want to hear this album for the rest of your life, which is understandable, because it was the only CD any of us had on hand and there was no way of connecting one's phone to this particular car at that particular point in time. But setting that aside, there's a certain amount of enjoyment to be derived from listening to stone cold pros digging into classic cuts. Here's the track listing:

All Along the Watchtower
Can't Find My Way Home
White Room
Reason to Believe
You Keep Me Hanging On
Black Dog
On the Road Again
Feel Like Makin' Love
Reeling in the Years
Who Are You

You're intrigued, aren't you? You'd be interested in listening to this for the low, low price of free, wouldn't you? I'm here to help, friend — I've zipped up the whole damn thing, uploaded it to Dropbox, and the results are waiting for you below. Without exception, these versions will almost certainly strike your ears as something less than definitive, but you may still end up being glad you heard them.

Spin 1ne
Shared with Dropbox